Bell Island, Exumas — An application to dredge into the sea bed at Bell Island in the Exuma Land and Sea Park has not even been granted as yet, and the developer is already cutting deep into a limestone hill to create a marina.
The island’s developer, The Aga Khan IV of the Aga Khan Development Network, has two grandiose luxury homes that sit on top of two picturesque hills surrounded by plush natural vegetation on Bell Island in the park. Both homes have similar designs and feature areas of glass walls and a box shape that let’s in light at key areas of the homes. Manicured landscapes hug the homes, which are spaced far apart on one of the most beautiful and more elevated islands in the park.
One home sits just below the helicopter pad, which is a clean, grassy area on another hill. It’s the landing pad of the 13-seat helicopter that has been the center of headline stories, as the press and the public seek answers and call for more transparency as it pertains to developments on Crown Land in The Bahamas.
Ever since The Tribune ran a red-letter story disclosing how Environment Minister Earl Deveaux received rides in the Aga Khan’s helicopter.
He has handed his resignation into Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham. Media officials and the public are anxious for the Prime Minister to respond to this embarrassing situation for his government that claims to operate on a ‘trust factor’.
The Aga Khan IV has an application before the Ministry of Environment which Minister Deveaux said he was ‘minded to’ approve. It will allow the Aga Khan to create a number of marina slips, dredging up to fifteen feet deep. The public has yet to be told how long and how wide the slips will be, leading out to the sea.
Although the application has not been approved, massive demolition of a portion of the hill has already begun. The portion of excavated hill is about 20 feet deep and has been flattened to sea level, making it easier for excavation of the sea bed once the official approval is granted.
But concerns have been raised as the excavation of the hill and the buildings believed to be housing materials indicates that the developer expects to get the approval. Meantime, the hill has already been cut down, unbeknownst to most of the Bahamian public.
There are two main buildings near the area where demolition is being presently carried out, which are believed to house materials to complete the construction of the marina. The island also features a gazebo near a private beach. The gazebo is draped with sheer, white cloth and exudes romanticism. There is also a development on the other side of the island, where it is believed that workmen reside, as tools and equipment can be seen on the lot, and simple, wooden homes are present.
The hill that has been cut down is close to what appears to be the main home, where two satellite dishes are nestled in the bushes and are used for communication on the island. Bell Island features four amazing, heavenly white sandy beaches.
Once a Crown Land lease is up in 47 years, Bahamian children who today aspire to achieve a lease must be afforded the opportunity. If leasing developers like Aga Khan make major detrimental changes to the landscape, it could destroy the sacred land that belongs to the people of the Bahamas that the Minister of the Environment and the Bahamas National Trust has failed to protect.
The Minister has publicly admitted to accepting rides in the luxury helicopter and said he would “do it again”, while it has been revealed that the managing director at BNT accepted a million-dollar grant from the Bell island developer last year.